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Movie Review: Glass

Glass, it could have been great

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
In Theatres

Glass is the nineteen years later sequel to Unbreakable, the promise that was made at the end of Split. It is the closing chapter to a trilogy that none of us knew was coming until we heard the piece from the Unbreakable score play two thirds through Split. It is both a sequel to one of the great deconstructions of the superhero and a follow-up to one of the great thrillers of the last few years. It closes a series that began with a film that is more an intellectual exercise than a superhero film. A third chapter to a series whose second part's greatest special effect was James McAvoy's talent, which is near supernatural in scope. Glass closes out a series that gave us one of the great Bruce Willis performances of, well, ever. A series that introduced everyone that had missed The Witch to Anya Taylor-Joy. 

Mr. Shyamalan had his work cut out for him. He's following up Unbreakable, a film that was panned by both critics and audiences in 2000 but has grown in reputation and stature over the decades. A film that is now regarded as years ahead of its time. Unbreakable works not just as a deconstruction of the superhero, but also as a deconstruction of the modern comic book movie, a genre that was still in its infancy when Unbreakable opened. He's also following up Split, not just a great horror movie, a great thriller, it is a great movie that transcends its genre roots. And, before we forget, he's also coming off his strongest creative stretch since the days of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. The one-two punch of The Visit and Split were like an announcement from on high that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Shyamalan was going to fulfill his early promise. 

Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I was hoping for that promise of "the next Hitchcock" to finally be fulfilled. It's not that I didn't enjoy Glass. I did. I enjoyed it. It's a good film. But even though it is a good film, it's still disappointing. Because it's not a great film and it really should have been.

Maybe that's the worst that can be said about Glass, it should have been great. It feels like a thousand missed opportunities. It feels like a film more about what could have been than a film that can be enjoyed for what it is. Glass feels like a series of ideas that lead to very little. It feels rushed, like either the script wasn't ready or the difficulties of filming around the leads' schedules proved too much. And Glass is nowhere near as tight as Split or The Visit. Those two films are like masterclasses in film construction. There is no excess. Nothing needs to be trimmed. There is not one extraneous frame in either of those two films, not one wasted word of dialogue.

Glass has some bad dialogue, though the worst is saved for the director himself in a moment that would feel forced in a high school drama class. There are moments when the internal logic of the movie's universe just crumbles. And there are some actors that are left with so little to do that it almost becomes a joke. It seems that Luke Kirby's sadistic orderly, a character that adds nearly nothing to the story, to the plot, has three times the lines of Bruce Willis. Glass is an example of when Mr. Shyamalan should have given his script another few passes. 

And Glass is unnecessarily complicated, and is made even more complicated in the third act. Mr. Shyamalan's best work is when he strips the fat and makes films that are deceptively simple - kid sees dead people, dad is a superhero, alien invasion, old people are scary, man with dissociative identity disorder kidnaps young women. Glass can't really be summed up like that. It would take a paragraph to sum up the plot of Glass, there is no easy elevator pitch for this movie. It could have been bad guys team up against good guy, but it isn't. I'm not going to go into the plot machinations or anything, I'm not going to ruin the film for anyone that wants to watch it. But, really, Glass is unnecessarily complicated. 

There is plenty to recommend about Glass. It's not completely a loss. Like I wrote above somewhere, I liked Glass, I enjoyed it. I just wish I could have loved Glass

Let us talk about the performances. Anya Taylor-Joy, even when given little to do, takes command of nearly every scene she is in. Her Casey isn't a broken survivor. When she is called a victim by another character, the look on her face is almost surprise that someone would see her that way. Samuel L. Jackson spends a chunk of the movie sedated and staring into the middle space but there is a moment that brings to mind The Dark Knight Returns and it is just about perfection, so subtle it could be easily missed. Bruce Willis returns to form with David Dunn, he is everything that we have missed from Bruce Willis' performances for about the past decade. Spencer Treat Clark returns to play Joseph Dunn and is solid as the loyal son. Sarah Paulson is effective as the psychiatrist specializing in delusions of grandeur. But the real treat here for anyone that loves to watch great performances is James McAvoy. Like in Split, his talent is Glass' greatest special effect. 

The film looks great, with colour palettes that match the three main characters. It is shot by Mike Gioulakis, who was the cinematographer on Split and It Follows. Composed by West Dylan Thordson, the score is solid. Mr. Shyamalan does make some odd directorial choices, Dutch angles and POV shots and odd framing that seem to mimic comic book frames. Nothing too distracting, just odd choices in a film series that seeks to ground the comic book movie. 

And being a film by M. Night Shyamalan there are some third act reveals. Some work, some… don't. The ones that work are based on things that have been presented elsewhere in the series. The ones that don't work feel forced, feel like someone searching for an ending. 

And now to sum this thing up. Glass is, well, okay. It's fine. It's good. It could have been great. It should have been so much better.